MP Francisco Louça is the Left Bloc candidate for Portuguese president. The campaign has gone very well. As the campaign has gone on it has become clearer that it is necessary to present an candidate who stands for an alternative to the main parties.
“The first priority of my candidature is how to create a social security system of solidarity, that is sustainable, and to fight unemployment and poverty,” says Francisco Louça.
The conservative candidate Anibal Cavaco Silva was the prime minister between 1985 and 1995. He was defeated in the 1996 presidential elections and disappeared from the political scene.
He is now the favourite to win. The two right wing parties and big business support him.
People have bad memories of him as prime minister when he attacked the civil service workers and sent the police against the students when they protested against fees.
The Socialist Party, similar to Britain’s Labour Party, won the general election in February of last year and replaced the Tories as the government.
There is a weird situation in this election as the Socialist Party has two candidates.
Its official candidate is former prime minister Mario Soares, but Manuel Alegre, who has spent all his life in the Socialist Party, is also running as an independent.
He is trying to attract some parts of the left to support him, even though he has backed the neo-liberal policies of the government.
It has recently decided that the pay rise in the public sector will be just 1.5 percent.
This will set the tone for all other wage claims.
The government has attacked pensions and social security, which both Soares and Alegre have supported.
There is also a Communist Party candidate, Jeronimo de Sousa.
Francisco Louça’s campaign has won a lot of support. A national committee for his campaign is made up of Left Bloc members and non-members, who are in the majority.
His supporters include trade unionists, members of the workers’ committees, intellectuals and social movement activists are all supporting him.
Over 1.5 million people live below the poverty line in a country of ten million people. We are fighting against privatisation and for public services.
We are standing against George Bush and for human rights, supporting gay and lesbian rights, abortion rights and the rights of immigrants. We also want equal gender representation in politics.
We have been very active from the north to the south of the country. Francisco has had direct contact with people.
He has visited factories, met the immigrant community, gone to prisons to speak out about justice, met fishermen who are struggling, been to hospitals to stand against privatisation, and has met students and artists.
We are having public meetings and large concerts in the run-up to the election.
The Left Bloc, with eight MPs, are seen as the people in parliament who have the courage to stand up. Polls are putting us at between 4 and 7 percent for the first round of the presidential elections.
The media were unanimous that Francisco Louça was the only candidate to defeat Silva in the televised presidential debates. There was a clear difference between them.
People have been coming up to us and saying how welcome and encouraging it is that the Left Bloc have a candidate.
Even if Cavaco Silva wins, we see our campaign as mobilising to defeat him in the future.
Alda Sousa is a member of the Left Bloc national council